The Federal government has pledged to give millions of dollars to California to help manage a severe drought that has prompted broad fishing bans in rivers across the state.
The Huffington Post reported that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide $14 million in water management improvements throughout the state. On Tuesday, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pledged $20 million towards managing the drought.
The millions of dollars in Federal funding comes on the heels of the California Fish and Game Commission’s decision to extend fishing bans on dozens of the state’s rivers and streams, which most recently included the American and Russian rivers.
We reported earlier this month that California’s endangered fish species are facing extinction because of the low water levels in the state’s waterways. The most effected are coho salmon and steelhead, because the entrances to their migratory waterways they use for spawning have dried up, leaving them trapped in the Pacific Ocean. The fishing bans are part of the state Fish and Game’s effort to protect the endangered fish species from becoming extinct. But some politicians in California and the Federal government don’t believe the fish are the priority.
A Heated Political Debate
On Wednesday, House Republicans passed a bill that will redirect river water protecting the endangered fish to farms in the state’s Central Valley.
“How you can favor fish over people is something people in my part of the world would never understand.”
“How you can favor fish over people is something people in my part of the world would never understand,” said House Speaker John Boehner during a recent visit to California.
The political dynamics surrounding the drought are complex, but one thing is clear: the fish are in danger of dying out. If the drought worsens, Fish and Game officials said they will send work crews to rivers to rescue endangered fish.
“We may need to put hands on legally protected fish, and bring them in to protect their DNA from extinction,” California Fish and Game Director Chuck Bonham said.
The fishing bans are expected to run until April 30.
The drought has also affected the behavior of other wildlife. In some instances, bears are moving into more populated California areas to seek water and food. Last month, we reported a story about a bear that stalked a couple outside a residence in Pasadena. The bear was believed to have been searching for water or food.